Wrestling Chronic Disease

One man’s story of success and improved health

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The cost of chronic disease to the U.S. healthcare system is staggering.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 90 percent of the nation’s $3.3 trillion in annual healthcare expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions.  And the fact is that most chronic conditions are preventable.  Numerous medical-based scientific studies conclude that proper nutrition and physical activity, even simple modifications in these behaviors, can prevent the onset of chronic disease and/or mitigate symptoms and complications of those who suffer from chronic disease.

The Long Island Health Collaborative (LIHC), a voluntary coalition of Long Island’s hospitals, academic institutions, community-based organizations, health plans, libraries, municipalities, and businesses working to reduce the incidence of chronic disease, recently met a young man with a loving family and a lot to live for, and we decided to tell his story as proof that lifestyle changes do work.

Chris Garner was overweight and taking a fistful of prescription medications every day. He had both high blood pressure and pre-diabetes, but he decided to become proactive about his health. He enrolled in a chronic disease self-management program through his local health department. There he learned how to incorporate and sustain lifestyle changes – how healthier eating and exercise could change his life in both the long and short term.

The Stats about Chronic Diseases from the CDC

Across America, six in ten adults live with at least one chronic disease.   A chronic disease is a condition that lasts one year or more, and requires ongoing medical attention, or limits activities of daily living. Or both.

The leading causes of death and disability in the United States, chronic diseases are conditions like cancer, heart disease, asthma, stroke and diabetes. Four in ten adults live with multiple chronic conditions.

Most chronic diseases are caused by a short list of risk behaviors, including lack of physical activity and poor nutrition. But by making healthy choices, you can reduce your likelihood of getting a chronic disease and improve your quality of life.

What changed for Chris?

Chris Garner was one of those Americans with multiple chronic diseases. When he decided to make a change, he chose changes he could stick with. With the help of the chronic disease management program, he learned how to read food labels, began cooking more and eating out less, and he started going for daily walks. With these simple changes, Chris lost weight and started to feel better. Most importantly, he reduced his reliance on medication. Today, he feels better and his health has dramatically improved.

Get help with your first small change

The truth is that most chronic diseases can be prevented through simple lifestyle changes like the ones Chris made. The Long Island Health Collaborative’s Live Better campaign wants to help you do just that – Live Better.  On Long Island, there are a number of resources to help you and your family make those healthy choices.  The LIHC lists these resources on its site and even provides searchable databases to help you find a chronic disease self-management program that will work for you.

Self-management programs are offered by many hospitals, health departments, and community-based organizations. These programs are taught by healthcare professionals, and they focus on building and maintaining healthy habits. Habits like quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting more exercise, and receiving recommended health screenings, are all easy ways to improve your health.

By learning the skills to hard-wire these healthy habits, participants often see a reduction in their symptoms and enjoy improved health.

Choose to Live Better.

 

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